HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TRICK (2019)

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TRICK (2019)

In 2015 at a Halloween party in the town of Benton, N.Y., Patrick Weaver (Thom Niemann) or “Trick” goes crazy, killing five of his high school classmates and injuring several others, until stopped by pretty schoolmate Cheryl (Kristina Reyes). At the hospital, Trick makes a daring escape attempt while being questioned by Det. Mike Denver (Omar Epps) and Sheriff Lisa Jayne (Ellen Adair). He’s shot several times, falls out a second story window and wanders off collapsing into a nearby river. He’s presumed dead, but the body is never found and each Halloween after, a masked killer shows up in a nearby town on the river and kills a number of people before vanishing. As Trick starts to become famous as an internet Halloween boogeyman, Denver vows to hunt him down and stop him. With evidence leading to Trick’s return to Benton for Halloween 2019, Denver, Sheriff Jayne and Cheryl prepare to meet the killer head on.

Trick is written by My Bloody Valentine 2009 and Drive Angry duo Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier and directed by Lussier. The two were once involved with an official Halloween sequel that never got made and maybe this is the result of that disappointment. And Trick is a bit of a disappointment, as it is kind of a mixed bag of Halloween candy. The script has a number of plot holes and while most horror flicks do, these are a bit jarring, such as why no one in school remembers what Patrick Weaver looked like. It’s a weak contrivance so no one recognizes him when he’s among them and to try to add an air of mystery to him. Lussier directs this flick very by-the-numbers, too and the first hour of the flick seems rushed and devoid of any atmosphere as the story tries to quickly establish Trick as the new boogeyman of All Hallow’s Eve. In fact, it tries way too hard and that forced approach doesn’t make Trick click. It follows the formula a bit too closely and thus seems more like a copy of Carpenter’s classic, early on, than a sincere effort. Things do settle down and Lussier does start to generate some tension and atmosphere once Halloween and Trick arrive in Benton, especially in a scene set in a haunted maze attraction. The last act goes a bit off the rails as the writers try to add a few twists during it’s hospital set conclusion and it takes the flick in a bit of a different direction, which may divide viewers as to whether it works or not. There is some really good gore along the way, though the film looses some points for some awful CGI blood for gunshot hits. The upstate New York settings were a refreshing change from the usual small Midwestern town and it’s too bad they couldn’t have infused the film with more of the Halloween spirit that the upstate New York area has this time of year. It’s a little flat in that department. Again, it tries too hard. Trick’s initial double-sided pumpkin mask and freaky knife are kinda cool, but the new Michael Myers, he sadly is not.

Cast is Good. Omar Epps actually does very well in the Dr. Loomis by way of Fox Mulder role. A veteran detective who is forced into retirement due to his obsession with Trick. Ellen Adair is Scully to Epps’ Mulder as the town sheriff that refuses, at first, to believe Trick is still alive and that this is anything more than a copycat killer. Kristina Reyes makes for a really solid heroine/final girl and it’s too bad it takes the film so long to focus on her. She’s strong, resilient and the actress has an endearing screen charm. Rounding out are supporting roles from Scream’s Jamie Kennedy as a doctor at the town hospital and the legendary Tom Atkins (Halloween III) as a diner owner.

Overall, Not sure what happened, as My Bloody Valentine 2009 is gory, intense and fun, while Drive Angry is simply an all-out hoot. This flick could have used more of those movies’ intensity and over-the-top fun. Trick is not the new Halloween classic one hoped for, though is not a completely smashed pumpkin. It’s attempts to create a new horror icon are rushed and forced, though once Halloween night hits, Trick is an effective killer and there is some really gruesome carnage. The film follows the formula possibly too closely to start, then veers off in a different direction in it’s climactic scenes that may, or may not, work depending on the viewer. There are some bigger than usual plot holes, though it does have it’s moments. A bit of a disappointment from a duo who have made some bloody fun flicks, but certainly not the worst Halloween set horror out there. Might be the type of flick that grows on one with repeat viewings during the spooky season.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Trick masks.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: MY BLOODY VALENTINE and HOUSE OF WAX

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This week’s double feature is comprised of the remakes/reboots/re-imaginings of two horror classics which are actually not bad on their own as horror flicks go. They may not be held in the same regard as the films they are based on but, as a fun night on the couch, they both provide some bloody horror entertainment and stand enough on their own so as not to dishonor their predecessors.

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MY BLOODY VALENTINE (2009)

While I can’t say I am a fan of remaking horror classics, it has been a trend for quite a few years now and occasionally you get one that stands on it’s own like the recent Evil Dead remake or this fun horror which actually, slightly improves on the 1981 original …which, in my opinion, doesn’t quite live up to it’s reputation, though is still nostalgic and enjoyable.

The 2009 remake is based on the original’s story, but basically does it’s own thing and that’s what helps keeps it from being a bland redo. Filmed in 3D, this film opens with a mining accident caused by the mine owner’s son, Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), who forgets to vent the lines and the resulting explosion traps six miners inside a cave-in. When they are finally dug out, five are dead at the hands of the sixth, Harry Warden (Richard John Walters), who murdered them to preserve oxygen for himself. When found, he is comatose and subsequently hospitalized. A year later Harry awakens from his coma and after a bloody massacre at the hospital, returns to the mine on Valentine’s Day where a party is in progress and he viciously attacks the party goers which includes Tom, his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King), along with Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith) and his girl Irene (Betsy Rue). Many youths are killed by the time the sheriff (the great Tom Atkins) arrives and guns down Warden resulting in another cave-in. Warden is thought dead and Tom, still feeling guilt over his accident causing mistake and the following deaths, leaves town and disappears. We pick up the story 10 years later where Axel is now sheriff, Sarah is his wife and Tom has returned to sell the mine now that his father has died. But, death and murder has also returned to Harmony as a man dressed in miner’s gear is going on a killing spree with his trusty pick-axe. He is leaving a trail of mutilated bodies, some with hearts ripped out and placed in heart-shaped boxes. Did Harry Warden escape the mine and his wounds 10 years earlier, or has the approaching sale of the mine sent an unbalanced individual on a copy-cat killing spree? All this peaceful town and it’s inhabitants know is that suspects and bodies are piling up. Will the killer be unveiled and stopped?

Brought to us by the team of director Patrick Lussier and writer/actor Todd Farmer (co-wrtten with Zane Smith)…who would next collaborate on the grind-house style Drive Angry…this remake uses the original’s storyline to get things started, then goes off on it’s bloody own. Lussier is able to have a good time with the flick, adding some intensity, livening things up and giving it a bit faster pace, which the original film lacked. He also adds a touch of humor here and there such as a scene where he gets to slaughter his writer Todd Farmer, in an amusing sex scene gone wrong with Axel’s ex, Irene, in a seedy hotel. The classic original could have benefited from some of what Lussier brings here, as it was very by-the-numbers and had a very dry approach…though, credit where credit is due, the original had a bit more atmosphere.

Lussier also gets lively performances out of his leads, especially our final girl Jaime King who proves to be a resilient and tough woman when corned by a psycho with a pick axe. Ackles and Smith are both good as well, especially considering their characters are not only in a competition for Sarah, but flip-flop back and forth as possible suspects or potential heroes. And Tom Atkins is a delight to watch as always.

The film is not perfect. Filmed for 3D, there is a lot of stuff thrust at the screen and it gets tiresome watching it in 2D and having scenes often stop for a few seconds to stick something in your face. The big reveal in the film is not as surprising as it was in the original and there is some mediocre CGI mixed in with the abundant prosthetic gore. And while on that subject, the film is quite gruesome like the original, but in the last act I have to admit the whole death by pick axe thing was wearing out it’s welcome. At least the original added some variety in it’s kills.

Overall this is a fun and entertaining slasher that has a good time and pays homage to the original yet, takes off and does it’s own thing. I also give it credit for focusing on a group of characters who are in their late twenties/early thirties than the usual nubile teens or college kids. It’s not all that often that the final girl is a final MILF. It may not be remembered as a classic like the original 1981 film is, but it is a fun horror that entertains on it’s own and doesn’t dishonor it’s source material. A fun ‘Saturday night on the couch’ horror. Also stars Kevin Tighe from the classic 70s show Emergency as the mine’s manager.

Rated 3 (out of 4) pick axes.

my bloody Valentine 2009 rating

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HOUSE OF WAX (2005)

House Of Wax may share the title of the 1953 Vincent Price classic, but it’s plot is more Texas Chainsaw Massacre with wax than it is a true remake of that vintage horror. The film opens with 6 young people, including Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her delinquent of a twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), on their way to Louisiana for a big football game. Along for the ride are Paige (Paris Hilton), her boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard… yes, that’s how it’s spelled), Carly’s boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki) and Dalton (Jon Abrahams). They decide to camp off the side of the road and are vexed that night by an ominous truck glaring it’s headlights at them. After chasing the truck off, someone returns later that night to videotape them while they sleep and mess with Wade’s car. Something is not right in them thar woods! Carly and Wade decide to try to get the car fixed while the others leave for the game. They encounter a very odd local man dumping road kill in a huge pit filled with dead animals and hitch a ride with him into town. Makes sense! But the town they arrive at seems devoid of much life and despite being very remote, is home to a large and very creepy wax museum. The only living soul seems to be garage mechanic Bo (Brian Van Holt) who offers to take them up to his decrepit house to get the proper part for Wade’s car. Inside, Wade unfortunately meets Bo’s wax masked brother Vincent (also Van Holt) and Carly soon becomes the hunted prey of two very twisted individuals who seem to have a hobby of turning unsuspecting visitors into wax statues for display in this empty ghost town. But worse still, her brother and friends are on the way back and are looking for her and may soon join the grotesque side show attraction these demented ex-siamese twins have made of the little town of Ambrose.

Written by Chad and Carey Hayes and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan), this ‘remake’ is actually a fun popcorn horror despite being very derivative of things we’ve seen before. If you go in not expecting much, it actually has some good chills and thrills and delivers some good gore. Collet-Serra has a really nice visual style that gives the film a very unsettling look, provides some disturbing atmosphere and really shines in the fiery climax. There are some definite lapses in logic here and characters do make some dumb decisions to move the plot along, but no worse then we are used to in films like this. Though the most annoying example, is a scene with Bo securing Carly to a chair with duct tape and then wrestling with her to super glue her lips closed, when all he had to do was use another strip of duct tape and voila!…silent captive. It’s done for shock value and is just stupid and completely unpractical…not that I know what practical behavior is for a serial killer. So, if you are a fan of backwoods horror this is certainly no worse an offender in terms of character stupidity and certainly delivers what fans of the sub-genre enjoy… at least enough to make this a good time, though fairly forgettable once it’s over.

The cast are fine with Cuthbert really standing out as a strong and resourceful heroine which makes me wonder why her movie career remained unremarkable…the awful Captivity probably didn’t help. Media darling Paris Hilton was far better than expected and since her character doesn’t do much, there wasn’t much expected of her and that works fine. She was cast for her notoriety and is quite adequate in what little she is asked to do. Murray makes an OK douche turned hero and his performance picks up once Nick and his sister go up against Bo and Vincent for the final act’s twins vs. twins smackdown. The rest of the performers are adequate as fodder for slaughter and wax sculpture and there is no mistake that that’s what they are for.

The make-up FX are good and there is plentiful gore. Collet-Serra gives us some nice suspense and some tension, especially in the action packed last third where we get some fun set-pieces, including the climactic showdown in the burning wax museum. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s done well and overall it entertains well enough for a night on the coach with some brews. And as long as you don’t expect anything more, House Of Wax is perfectly fine amusement for a Saturday night horror fest.

Rated 3 (out of 4) cute and courageous Cuthberts.

house of wax rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: JASON X and FREDDY vs. JASON

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My Friday The 13th film retrospective is back with a vengeance with the final two films in the original series before the 2009 reboot…which we will cover soon…these two are certainly the most over the top of the series as one brings Jason into not only the future, but outer space and the last pits him against the Springwood Slasher himself, Freddy Krueger…

 

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JASON X (2001)

With the awful Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday not making that much of an impact, despite trying something a bit new with the franchise and being yet another entry boasting it was the series’ last, it was eight years before New Line tried to get the series going again in anticipation for their plans for Freddy v.s. Jason which was in development at this point, but not ready for production. Not sure why they chose this completely over-the-top approach to get Jason back in action, but the 10th Friday The 13th flick finds Jason not only in the future, but in space and turned into a cyborg as well.

The film starts out in 2010 where Crystal Lake apparently has a research facility and Jason is imprisoned there as the subject of government research into why they can’t kill him and why he can regenerate his body tissue so quickly…though from what I gather he is still a zombie at this point, so not sure how he is regenerating anything if he is dead. The arrogant Dr. Whimmer (legendary director David Cronenberg in a cameo) wants him studied, while Research Director Rowan (Lexa Doig) wants him cryogenically frozen after repeated attempts to destroy him have all failed. During an attempt to transfer Jason elsewhere, he escapes and kills everyone before Rowan tricks him into the cryogenic freeze chamber, but not before being wounded and frozen herself. We then cut to 2455 where earth is uninhabitable and a research ship filled with students, who are not unlike the nubile camp counselors and partying teens in previous installments, find Jason and Rowan and bring them back to their ship with intents of returning to Earth 2 with their find. Rowan is revived and healed and warns the crew to destroy the frozen Jason. A greedy professor (Jonathan Potts), however, sees dollar signs in making the infamous serial killer an exhibit and has no interest in seeing him destroyed. Jason has his own agenda and despite being thought dead, thaws out and returns to his old habits and starts slaughtering the crew…including their well-armed security force. Can Rowan and the remaining crew fend off the revived killer, or will their ship become a floating tomb?

This installment at least is smart enough to try to have a good time with actor/writer Todd (Drive Angry) Farmer’s silly script and makes no pretense in trying to be a serious horror flick. As directed by James Issac…a Visual FX Supervisor who did FX work for both David Cronenberg and Sean S. Cunningham, which explains Cronenberg’s cameo and being hired to direct this flick…the film makes a solid effort to have a fun with the outlandish premise and yet deliver at least some of the familiar elements that F13 fans look for. Unfortunately, Issac’s minimal experience as a director doesn’t give the film the vitality and faster pace it needed to really make effective use of the Sci-Fi imbued story. His directing is very by-the-numbers and the film only really livens up in the last act when Jason goes up against a female android, the KM 14 (Lisa Ryder) who goes all Ripley on the Crystal Lake juggernaut. This leads to a computer malfunction repairing Jason and turning him into an even more lethal cyborg. It’s these moments when the film really takes off and has a good time with taking the iconic character into space. It’s a little too late to really turn the film into a B-movie treat, but it saves it from being a little more then a head scratching curiosity. Issac at least knew his material was silly and it’s too bad he couldn’t have given it a little more spark till these scenes. Not that some of what came before isn’t entertaining, it just isn’t outrageous or fun enough to match the premise. Again…by the numbers. Issac’s approach is competent but very straight-forward and if you’re going to take Jason Voorhees into space, go with it and have a blast. Maybe…and I’m just guessing here…it’s simply because Issac’s experience is more technical and that’s how he approached directing it. The film needed someone with a more passionate touch. The gore FX are, at least, well done and there is enough to please fans.

The cast are fine. Lexa Doig makes a decent enough heroine as Rowan, but she really doesn’t become that endearing. Lisa Ryder steals the show as the spunky, sexy android KM 14 and the film could have used more of her. Peter Mensah makes a good impression as tough-as-nails and resilient Sergeant Brodski who bonds with Rowan, and Jonathan Potts is appropriately slimy as Professor Lowe. Kane Hodder returns for his fourth and final…at least for now…appearance as Jason and gives the character his needed presence and menace.

Overall, it is not the weakest entry, but certainly not one of the better flicks. I was moderately entertained and only wished there was more fun had with the premise like we were treated to in the last act. The film was not the success New Line hoped for, considering the 14 million investment they made on it and it barely made it’s money back. But Freddy v.s. Jason was on the horizon and that would become the highest grossing film containing Mrs. Vorhees’ baby boy thus far. Worth a look if you are a fan of this series and haven’t seen it.

2 and 1/2 hockey masks.

friday 13 2009 rating

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FREDDY vs. JASON (2003)

After quite some time in development, New Line Cinema finally brought two of modern horror’s most infamous icons together for a throw-down…and in my opinion it is a bloody blast of gory fun. The clever plot has Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) finally outwitted by the people of Springwood. His memory has been wiped almost clean from the townsfolk by a diligent policy of never discussing the nightmare demon and institutionalizing and medicating anyone who dreams about him. He’s powerless in his dream realm and quite unhappy about it. Not to be outwitted, Freddy has a nefarious plot to get back in action. He needs someone in the physical world to return to Elm St. and start killing again. The murders will obviously be attributed to him and once he is in the minds of the townsfolk and they begin to fear him again, his power will be restored. The monster he’s chosen for the job is a certain Crystal Lake resident. Freddy revives Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) and sends him to Elm St. to start a killing spree to which he will gleefully take credit. Jason picks the original Elm St. house to start his carnage, which is occupied now by a troubled girl named Lori (Monica Keena) and her widowed father (Tom Butler). Jason thus interrupts a get-together between Lori and some friends in gruesome fashion and Freddy’s plan is set in motion as troubled locals and the authorities think the Springwood Slasher is back. Freddy’s plan seems to be working fine except for two things he didn’t expect….One, Lori is a smart and resilient girl who figures things out a lot quicker than Freddy anticipated and rallies her friends to stop him. Secondly, Jason may have a kill-switch but not an off-switch and if he kills all the beleaguered Elm St. teens, Freddy will be back to square one with no one to fear/empower him. Now the dream demon has to not only foil Lori and friends from stopping him, but must now destroy the very fiend he set in motion. It’s monster vs. monster with Lori and her decreasing number of friends caught in the middle. Who will win?

As directed by Honk Kong filmmaker Ronny Yu, Freddy vs Jason is a lot of gory fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously, or expect it to be the least bit scary. The movie moves very quickly and Yu’s visual style is colorful, as with his Chinese films, but it is when these two modern horror icons finally lock horns that Yu’s HK filmmaking style really kicks in. The final battle is vicious and ridiculously gory like a Tom and Jerry cartoon by way of George Romero. When the smoke clears, you’ve had a bloody good time.

Yu also has a good cast with gorgeous Monica Keena making a sexy and smart final girl. The lively supporting cast features fan favorite Katharine Isabelle, as tough but cute Gibb, Kelly Rowland as smart-ass Kia, Jason Ritter as Lori’s ex Will, who has escaped from being hospitalized and drugged to prevent his dreams from evoking Freddy, with Brendan Fletcher as Will’s oddball bud and fellow hospital inmate, Mark. The supporting characters are all fun and likable and the cast members give them some nice personality to make it all the more effective when either Freddy or Jason take one of them down. The movie works very well because the cast of characters are endearing and our fiends are at their best. Obviously, Englund is at the top of his game as Freddy and he is given some fun dialogue and bits to chew on and serves as the main villain of the piece with Jason ending up being a sort of anti-hero or lesser of two evils. As Jason, big Ken Kirzinger gives him presence and menace and he holds his own against Mr. Krueger.

Sure some of the hardcore fan base may have been hoping for a more serious attempt at a legitimate horror with these two, but at this point, both characters have become more like anti-heroes and it would have been hard to take the bringing together of these two icons all that seriously. Yu chose an approach which never makes a joke out of it, but has a good time with the possibilities as does Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s script which provides some clever touches such as Freddy discovering Jason’s only ‘fear’. The flick gets a lot of mileage and fun out of the legacy of both characters and the bringing them together for a fight. It’s a very energetic movie and is a blast of fun and works very well for what it is. The characters still have some threat and there is plenty of the red stuff spurted about as their paths cross and the make-up effects portraying the carnage is top notch. The production as a whole is very slick and and makes good use of it’s healthy budget. A really entertaining flick that deserved, but sadly never got a rematch. A fun blast to end the original series for both Freddy and Jason.

3 and 1/2 hockey masks.

friday 13 1980 rating

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